A play produced in Britain by Julian Mitchell about a young man named Guy Bennett who embraces his homosexuality at a time when it was criminal to do so became the 1984 movie, “Another Country” (Warner Brothers and British Broadcasting). Here is a film, which like “Maurice” looks at the state of the British society. He eventually abandons his mother country to become a spy for Russia. Starring Rupert Everett and Kenneth Branagh (as a straight man), the movie showed the folly of the British Empire. The movie, when released, was controversial but brought forth a whole new group of young English actors and a storyline from which there was to be no turning back. Gays had finally arrived in mainstream cinema. The movie is one of the most interesting examinations of the British public school system (not to be confused with American public schools) where social class is more important than education, where rank is supreme and views of sexuality that are in any way “deviant” are punished corporally and those guilty are stifled from rising in society. The film shows parallel views of Guy’s attempt to become class leader but being held back because of his pursuit of the love of man. We also see the appeal of Marxism and how it is considered to be the only way to correct British policies and social system. Together with all of that, we also have the subplot of bigotry when we see a young student hanging himself because of his sexual preference and the dead-end f the aristocratic British Empire.
This is one of the finest films to deal with the subject of homosexuality, especially considering when it was made. The acting is superb, the characterization believable, the plot is sensational and the photography soars.
The film wastes no time in approaching the homosexual plot around which it is built. In the first scene we see two boys making love while there is a ceremony taking place outside of their window commemorating a dead soldier. This is, as if to say, that behind the ivy covered venerable walls of a public school the boys are more interested in love than war. Moral hatred, intolerance and sexual repression are outside while inside there is love. The education the boys receive is no more than a rehearsal for their life to come. As two boys refuse to play the game by the prescribed rules, we get a picture of what it was to be homosexual in a structured society. As the youth rebel we see a view toward male-male sex to be that as long as it is secret t is no problem. It is when it emerges as a lifestyle that it can cause the downfall of society. No outsiders—no communists, no gay boys could be part of the aristocracy but we see how this changed. Both visually and dramatically impressive, this is a film that we can look to see what the words “quality in cinema” mean. From the first frame to the closing credits we have lavish cinematography which is in stark contrast to the discipline system of the school. The school exists to simply be a microcosm of the larger society.
The personal and the professional mix and the use of both homosexuality and communism made good bedfellows since they have always both been regarded as revolutionary behaviors. The good dramatic writing adds much to the film and even though it is at times shocking in its portrayal of the closeness of boys, it is an ideal work. The music is enough to make the viewer swoon.
“Another Country” is a small film which deals with epic issues and it trusts the viewer to accept its premise. Each actor fills the shoes of the role he creates and the inter relationships are beautiful to watch unfold, I recently watched it again after not having seen it for twenty years and it still holds up as it did when I first saw it. Granted it deals with a world that most of us are totally unfamiliar with, it also deals with an issue that all of us know too well—acceptance. It is the same trials that we share now with the boys in the film and the movie can perhaps help us define where we really fit in the larger scheme of things.